Mentoring Change 3: How to Recognize Pre VS Post Decision

As part of our Christian mentoring resources, I want to talk about if someone has decided to change. You will be a much more effective marriage mentor when you recognize when someone has or has not decided to change.

The outside light by my front door burned out a few weeks ago. Understand that I don’t like to do maintenance on my house. I would rather spend all day developing a PowerPoint than get out a screwdriver, take the plate off the light, go to the store to find the right lightbulb and put it back together. I just don’t like to do this type of stuff.

A couple of days ago we had some friends over and it was dark outside. There are still some other lights that shine on the driveway, so I wasn’t too concerned. They knocked on the front door and I felt a little guilty about how dark the step was.

I was in a pre-decision mode. I knew I had a problem. I knew I had to change that bulb at some point, but I hadn’t done anything about it.

If you had asked me about it, I would have said, “That light bulb sure is a problem.”

If you would have said, “You could use a screwdriver to take off the plate that covers the bulb.”

I would have agreed, but I’d be a little annoyed.

How do you recognize when someone is in pre vs post decision?

Someone is post decision when they express a clear problem and the desire to act on it. Notice that you need BOTH parts: a problem and the desire to act.

Here’s how this plays out in a conversation.

Husband: “We spend too much time fighting.”

Mentor: “Anything else?”

Wife: “Yes, he doesn’t listen to me.”

Mentor: “Great, we have some communication tools that can help.”

The husband and wife recognize that they have a problem, but they haven’t expressed a desire to act on it. Is this a big enough problem to learn new behaviors?

When I was a new mentor, I would have been happy to hear about communication problems. I teach communication skills, so this is something I can help. I learned the hard way that I won’t be very effective rushing to advice.

Let’s look at a different conversation.

Husband: “I’d like a way to stop us from fighting.”

Mentor: “So, I’m hear that fighting is an issue with you and are looking for help. Is that right?”

Husband: “Yes, we can’t continue like this.”

Mentor: “Wife, do you agree?”

Wife: “That’s why we’re here. We hope you can help us.”

Do you see the difference? In the second example there is a desire to change. They may not know how to change or what to do, but they are looking for help.

Tips for Marriage Mentors:

  • Look for a desire to act – Someone is post decision when they express a desire to actually take action to change.
  • Ask for clarification – If you are unsure about where they are at in the process, ask additional questions. “Is this a big problem?” “Is it worth changing?” “What happens if you don’t change this?”
  • Confirm with the partner – Remember, there are two people here. Be sure to get both perspectives. One person could be pre-decision and another person could be post decision.

As I sit here writing this, I’m beginning to feel more convicted about my burned out light. I think I’ll go to the hardware store and buy a replacement bulb. Hey, I just moved from pre to post decision!

Other posts in this series with more tips:

How to Not Insult Couples: Mentoring Change

The Change Process

Pre-Decision – 3 Ways to Help

How do you recognize when someone is ready to change?